Dynamic Marriage, Part 3: DYNAMIC GROWTH

By: Jenni Walker

“Train our love, discipline it, too…Deepen it throughout the years.  Age and mellow it until, time that finds us old without…within, will find us lovers still.”  (Ruth Bell Graham)

“Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give Him the glory!  The Marriage of the Lamb has come; His Wife has made herself ready.”  (Revelation 19:7)

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In our last two posts, we have explored together the dynamics of our roles within marriage and also the navigation of difficulties in a marital union. In this last “Dynamic Marriage” post, I would like us to look at some key ingredients for dynamic growth within marriage.  Elisabeth Elliot aptly points out that throughout our marriage, there will be a general “process of change” in which our husbands, and we to them, “will be many things” to each other.  “Friend, lover, husband….confidant, companion, provider, strength, playmate, listener, teacher, pupil, leader, comforter… Each role has its limitations, each requires a different kind of response from you and this takes resilience, adaptability, maturity.”  (Let Me Be a Woman, p. 95)

We cannot necessarily expect that things will remain the same in life, nor should we want them to. In marriage in particular, it is necessary to grow together. This should happen first and foremost by pursuing our first love – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  As both spouses move toward God, “movement toward Him necessarily decreases the distance between them” (p. 93, Let Me Be a Woman).  Additionally, we should also grow in our “resilience, adaptability, maturity” (Elisabeth Elliot).  Someone who feels love for the Lord when the worship music is going in the background, the children are quiet, and the coffee is abundant may feel like she is moving toward the will of God in that moment. But when the peaceful music cannot be heard because the children are crying, or coffee is cold because the toilet was overflowing, how do we allow God to sanctify our hearts even in those times?  When we move the state of our hearts, minds, and attitudes toward the Lord even in times such as these in our daily lives is when true maturity, and also a profound dependence on God’s grace, begins to be fostered.  This spiritual maturity and dependency on the transforming truth of God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in the seemingly trivial parts of life will translate into a more easily-found maturity within marriage.  But how? you might be asking.  Let’s take a look at three ways to experience godly and dynamic growth in your marriage!

1) Keep loving…

“Life is made exciting and interest is sustained by these dynamics so long as all are undergirded by love.”  (Elisabeth Elliot)  Are you living in love in all parts of your marriage by God’s definition?  Do you take seriously the description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-15?

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies…When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-15, MSG version)

Reflect on this question today: Are you loving your husband with the love of Christ?  In the strength that He provides?  Even in times when we do not feel the love (thanks, Lion King!), we can still love.  One of the readings in Bryan’s and my wedding ceremony was an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, in which he writes, “Ceasing to be [or feel] ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from ‘being in love’ – is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.”  Seek God’s help, and choose to be obedient to Him in this area.  Then live in this love with one another with enthusiasm and courage!  You just might find that it also fosters some of those feelings of “being in love,” too!

2) Keep doing the little things…

Keep talking, keep doing the little things, keep prioritizing intimacy…these will help keep your marriage dynamic and growing!  I mentioned my friend Allie in part 2 of this “Dynamic Marriage” topic.  (Check out her story HERE: http://wp.me/P8h8cl-8Z.)  She and her husband just celebrated their eleventh wedding anniversary.  I asked her if she would be willing to share some advice from her marriage experience thus far.  Much of what she wrote had so much to do with growing together by doing the “little things” both with, and for, one another!  Here are some of her thoughts:

“Experience and do things TOGETHER. I get that girls nights and girl trips are fun, but why aren’t you desiring that time with your husband? There’s nothing like experiencing new food, activities and places with your husband! That is my escape; that is my happy place. Traveling and trying new things with my husband.   

“Be quick to say sorry. Every day you are needing to put yourself aside for marriage. Sometimes when you feel like you’re so right on a topic and you’re mad and arguing it may not be worth holding onto and sacrificing the peace in your home. Say the words “I’m sorry” and watch God work. It may open it up for a better more productive conversation. 

“Be intimate. Intimacy (both physical and emotional) and vulnerability with your husband is beautiful. Do not neglect this. 

“Last but not least, to sum it all up, be best friends and partners. Utilize what this relationship is all about. You’re doing life together. You’re doing things and experiencing things together. You’re helping each other, burdens aren’t just on one person. You’re sharing housework and responsibilities. In my house my husband does all of the cooking and grocery shopping. I do the dishes and cleaning. Figure out what works best for you guys, even if it breaks social norms. It’s not you and your mom and your husband, or you and your sister and your husband, it’s you and your husband! Making decisions together, laughing together, learning about each other and growing in your relationship every day. It’s so fun! Embrace it!”

What are some of the “little things” that you do for your husband?  That he does for you?  That you do with one another?  Make a list, and then add a few “future little things” to it. Start at least one from each list this week!  Romans 12:11 reminds us, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Marriage is one way to serve the Lord, and it requires intentional zeal as we serve one another! And it also has great reward.  Like Allie points out, “growing in your relationship every day” is “so fun!”  Embrace doing the little things as you experience new dynamics within your marriage and as you keep growing together!

3) Keep focused on God’s glory!

“God’s glory is the perfect harmony of all His attributes.” (John Piper, God Created Us for His Glory)

Last but most importantly, remember that no matter what, marriage is God’s design for His glory.  In all that we do, and all that we are, our primary goal ought to be to glorify our Lord because that is why we were created by Him!  This is emphasized again and again in the Bible:

“Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed even whom I have made.”  (Isaiah 43:7)

“Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)

“Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give Him the glory! The Marriage of the Lamb has come; His Wife has made herself ready.”  (Revelation 19:7)

When we keep focused on living for God’s glory, His attributes begin to permeate our lives.  And the more we practice this, the more our aim will truly be to live out of love for God and His glory in all things:  “When the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and His glory, when the soul thereon cleaves unto Him with intense affections, they will cast out, or not give admittance unto, those causes of spiritual weakness and indisposition. … And nothing will so much excite and encourage our souls hereunto as a constant view of Christ and His glory.”  (John Owen, The Glory of Christ)  When we cleave unto Him, we will better know what it is to cleave to each other as spouses “united into one” (Matthew 19:5).  When we understand that we are His (Isaiah 43:1), the more we will know what it is to be our beloved’s (Song of Solomon 6:3).

Dynamic growth in marriage cannot happen in an authentic, enduring, glorious way apart from first finding our satisfaction in God.  This is the anchor of our souls, the truth that gives us our identity, the crux of all things great and small within marriage.  And as our hearts’ desire more and more is to have a “constant view of Christ and His glory” (Owen), so too our hearts will delight in the His attributes that we begin to experience in marriage according to His design.

Is God’s glory your primary priority?  How will seeking God’s glory produce a more mature and satisfying marriage for you and your husband?  Make a list, get practical, and prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to reveal insight to you in this area!

(Want to study this topic some more?  Grab your Bible, a notebook, and check out these articles about God’s glory!  http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/god-created-us-for-his-glory and http://thecripplegate.com/beholding-glory-the-dynamics-of-sanctification/)

Dynamic Design

Remember that no matter what, marriage is God’s design, and He is so faithful.  Before her daughter got married, Elisabeth Elliot wrote to her, “When you are overwhelmed by all that God has required of you when He ‘let you be a woman,’ read Isaiah 41:10-11: ‘Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.’”  We do not need to contrive a sense of growth or maturity in our marriages.  Love your husband relentlessly with the love of Jesus, do the little things consistently, seek His glory wholeheartedly, and just watch what happens in your marriage.  Yes, it takes commitment.  Yes, it requires perseverance.  But God not only can handle the details of our marriages, but He delights in them because HE is the One who is the Lord of the dynamics of our lives!

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